The secrets to cooking with wine

With so many wines to choose from, cooking with wine can often cause confusion in the kitchen when really, it doesn’t need to be that challenging. Adding a splash of wine to a dish can really help bring out new flavours and aromas as well as keeping moisture in. With different wine styles come different flavours and qualities. We’re here with all the secrets and top tips you need to know when adding a drop of wine into your next meal. 

What happens when you cook with wine? 

When cooking with wine, the majority of alcohol actually burns off in the process. How much alcohol remains in the dish will come down to the cooking time, method used, and amount of wine being added in. Whilst a wine reduction will leave little trace of alcohol due to its slow cooking time, a flambé will have a higher alcohol content due to being cooked for a shorter period of time. Different cooking methods also come with their benefits for the dish.

Ways to cook with wine 

Wine isn’t just to add into your casserole. There are a range of methods you can use to cook with wine, each with their own qualities. 


Marinading meats can actually help make them really tender, with the wine’s acidity breaking down fibres in the meat. Marinading meats and vegetables assists with adding extra flavour too.


A wine reduction is concentrated sauce, made by thickening wine over the heat. As the wine heats up, it will start to evaporate leaving intense flavours and a thick consistency. A number of vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery can be added for a different flavour.


Deglazing a pan can produce a very simple yet tasty sauce in just a few steps. After pan-frying meat or vegetables and removing to rest, add your choice of wine to the hot pan or dish. Over a moderate to high heat, stir the wine amongst the brown bits in the pan. You’ll be left with a delicious sauce to serve as it is. Alternatively, it is the perfect base for making a gravy or casserole.


Cooking with wine is so versatile, it can be included in various baked goods too. Some luxury cakes call for a drop of champagne and fruit desserts can benefit from the use of fortified wines such as port and sherry.

It doesn’t have to be your cheapest bottle 

Just because you are cooking and not sipping from a glass, doesn’t mean you have to go for the cheapest bottle of wine. In fact some cheaper wines can often lack flavour or be too high in acidity which can actually ruin the dish rather than enhance it. If you aren’t happy to drink it, then don’t cook with it. We’re not suggesting you use your finest Châteauneuf-du-Pape … but do look to take advantage of our current wine offers to pick up something really quite delicious to include in your cooking. 

Best red wines for cooking 

Red wine is great for including in darker meat dishes. Here are our top picks …  


This fruit forward red has low tannins so makes it a great to cook with. It goes nicely with red meat dishes and when it comes to making a sauce or reduction, is the perfect choice. 

Pinot Noir 

Pinot Noir is a silky, light wine and if the recipe calls for a lot, a pinot noir won’t overpower the other components and flavours. It’s a great choice for cooking a meaty stew or casserole and will ensure meat stays tender. Due to its light style, it also works well alongside fattier meats. 

Cabernet Sauvignon 

This full-bodied red wine is perfect for braising dishes and will play a part in helping the meat fall straight off the bone. A Cabernet Sauvignon is also a great option for deglazing. Its low sugar will prevent it from caramelising which will leave you with a delicious sauce. 

Best white wines for cooking  

Dishes that work well cooked with white wine include risotto, pasta, chicken and seafood. As a general rule, crisp, dry, unoaked whites are always a good place to start. 


A creamy, full bodied Chardonnay is often known to have a buttery taste. It comes together nicely when cooking lobster, creamy chicken dishes and pasta sauces. We would recommend avoiding using an oaked chardonnay as when cooked down this can produce bitter flavours.  

Pinot Grigio

This dry, crisp, simple wine is a popular choice when it comes to cooking with white wine and is so versatile. It is great at complimenting more delicate foods such as mussels and creamy shrimp linguine.  

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is known for its citrussy and herbaceous flavours, and that’s exactly what it brings to a dish when cooking with it. It’s a perfect addition to a creamy risotto but works just as well for a fresh, zingy marinade on chicken and fish. 

Want to learn more? 

Join Tom Kerridge and Tom Laithwaite at our Cooking with Wine event at this year’s Virtual Vintage Festival

Tom Kerridge is the extremely popular and much-loved chef patron of the two Michelin-starred The Hand & Flowers pub in Marlow, which he opened with his wife, Beth, in 2005. Tom’s winning presence and infectious laugh made him a natural for TV, his first show Proper Pub Food was an overnight success. Tom’s latest programme Saving Britain’s Pubs sees Tom set out on a mission to revive struggling pubs, investigating industry challenges and the impact of Covid-19. Tom is also a successful author of cookbooks, many of which have tied in with his TV series, his latest being The Hand & Flowers Cookbook from Bloomsbury. If that wasn’t enough, Tom has also created cookware, homeware and a range of sauces including a black garlic ketchup. 

Tom Kerridge
Tom Laithwaite

In this masterclass Tom welcomes us to Marlow. Tom is keen to bust the myth of ‘cooking wines’ and believes you should cook with the best wine you can afford. Tom will be sharing two mouth-watering recipes one made with red wine and one with white. Tom Laithwaite will also be on hand from his brother’s winery just down the road in Marlow, Harrow & Hope, to advise us on the best wines to pair with these dishes. 

Click here to find out more and book your place at our Virtual Vintage Festival running from 15-17th April 2021.


About Laithwaite's Wine

We’re wine nuts, not wine snobs. We’ve been exploring the world on a mission to find great wine for the last 50 years. If you love adventure as much as we do, you belong with us. We know our winegrowers like family – and in some cases they actually are. Expect to hear from these legends of the soil, see behind the scenes access into vineyards and wineries and get news on fresh finds from our travels on this page. Drink responsibly. Visit for further health information. You must be aged 18 or over to follow.

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